7. Power/Rangers (Dir. Joseph Kahn)
Neither a film meant to be taken seriously nor really a spoof, Joseph Kahn’s entry in Adi Shankar’s line of fan videos is a perfect demonstration of what fucking about can accomplish. Where most grim-dark updates of children’s franchises skew cautious, to avoid locking out the under 13 demographic, Kahn disregards commercial prospects. Threesomes, head stabbings, bodies ripped apart by gunfire, Bulk and Skull ODing in a trailer, the Green Ranger as a growly, bloodthirsty hobo, no vulgarity goes overlooked. It’s a pit stop, but a delightful one.
6. Creed (Dir. Ryan Coogler)
A buzzy, nervously energetic retread of the first Rocky, Creed is a franchise handoff done right. Rather than try and reinvent the series, Ryan Coogler puts Stallone’s signature motifs–the trainer/fighter dynamic, montages, ‘going the distance’, etc.–into a dialogue with the new lead. Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) struggles with his place in life: fathered by Apollo Creed from an extramarital affair, he gravitates towards the family business the way all the previously established children of Rocky boxers didn’t. He yearns for, but refuses to articulate, a connection to the old man he never got. Instead, he knuckles down and goes to work. Stallone gets a do-over for the awfulness of Rocky V, and comes away with an enjoyable performance, walking Adonis through the steps he’s already gone through. It’s more than obligation to an old, dead friend, or the fulfillment of a cycle: Balboa recognizes his own failings in the younger man, and lasers in on the enemy within.
5. It Follows (Dir. David Robert Mitchell)
An anxiety attack turned into a movie. It Follows is structured around contradictions about society’s attitudes towards sex and youth, most of all in how those attitudes shape the film’s teens despite a near-complete absence of authority. Adults, let alone parents, only serve two functions in the film: to barely acknowledge their young, and disregard their concerns. This aligns the kids with the audience, struggling to figure out what they’re seeing and having no simple answers.
4. Spy (Dir. Paul Feig)
Paul Feig finally puts Melissa McCarthy front and center, and lets her shred the scenery. Who could want anything else?
3. Run All Night (Dir. Jaume Collet-Serra)
Liam Neeson’s late period revival as an action star has, rather than attempt to hide or shrug off his age (i.e. Bruce Willis in the last two Die Hards), fully embraced that he’s a middle-aged man. Taken is a Dad Movie, where Neeson gets to be macho and always right. However, his haggard eyes always belied something broken. Everything he’s headlined since has spun on this formula (aside from The Grey, an introspective glimpse into futility and grief). Run All Night expands on it, taking the idea of Neeson as the estranged patriarch to a bittersweet conclusion. Jimmy Conlon isn’t always right; if anything, he’s a deadbeat, destroying himself out of remorse. No one takes him seriously, let alone the son he abandoned years ago. Far more than Taken‘s put-upon CIA killer, Bryan Mills, Jimmy makes sense as a character. With nothing to lose but his son, he straightens himself out just enough for one last bloodbath. Things immediately go wrong, and he begins to pick up damage. A scratch here, a sprained ankle there. A series of punishments leading up to a gunshot wound, which Jaume Collet-Serra depicts with full-blown horror as Neeson struggles to move even his fingers. There could be another dozen of these movies, and none would be as satisfying as this.
2. Maggie (Dir. Henry Hobson)
This is the opposite of Liam Neeson’s revival: a previously unstoppable machine faced with a situation he can’t make submit to his will. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a dad losing his daughter to zombism. Unwilling to let her be whisked off by the government to rot in a cage, he instead keeps her home and pretends for as long as he can the inevitable isn’t coming. There is no bad guy to blow away, no horde to cut through, no cure to attain; the only victory is giving a child some semblance of dignity in dying too soon.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (Dir. George Miller)
What can be said about this which hasn’t been a million times over? It’s a primal spectacle of a movie, built entirely around a single car chase where people do stupidly dangerous things for your entertainment. That it does those things with intelligence and care, that it creates a familial bond with its characters forged by propulsive action, that a lot of it is actual stunt work, isn’t icing on the cake, it’s why it all had so much impact. Witness it.